Don’t Write It Down

I started out as a programmer in 1981 for a software house who wrote bespoke
systems and installed 3rd party software for DEC/Systime systems for
customers. My first application was for a bespoke invoicing system for a new
customer. The customer also had installed the Systime payroll system which
had been installed by one of my colleagues – but had since left. The main
part of my system was ready for live testing. I went to the site to install
it with the Customer Manager who looked after the customer. He chatted with
the customer staff whilst I did my bit. Fine. Went to tell them it was all
installed and ready for testing. The missing parts (just some reports) would
be installed in the next couple of weeks. Any problems just let me know etc
etc etc. I was just starting to edge out of the room when one of the staff
piped up – Well as you asking there’s a problem with the payroll. My heart
sank as it wasn’t my program and I didn’t really know it. The person who had
just left had been the expert on these – and no one else had ‘got into them’
yet. Yes, I asked. Well she said, we can’t get into the payroll. It’s asking
for this thing called a password. We don’t know what to type there. When we
had the training, we’ve got no note of what to type and the documentation
just says to type in the password which has been set up by the
administrator. So, I asked, you’re never actually used the payroll system
since it was installed and training given? No, she said. At the point the
Customer Manager muttered some unprintable words and phrases and turned to
me asked if I could fix this? Fix it – I’d never used the Payroll system.
However I said I’d have a look. I got a directory listing of the files on
the system and looked at the names to see if any gave any clue as to which
one might help. There it was. PASMAN. I tried running that and whoopee it
asked to enter the required password. They agreed on a password (which they
wrote down in a book!), I typed it in, the program ended, they started the
payroll system, entered this password and lo and behold the payroll main
menu was displayed. Joy all round. The Customer Manager was smiling and we
adjourned to the local pub… I was called the Magician for a while after
that as I had ‘pulled a rabbit out of the hat’.